By Erin Gallagher
Hot indeed! I broke down and turned on my air conditioning this week, and thus I begrudgingly usher in another central Florida summer.
Did anyone else attend the NASIG conference in Ft. Worth last week? It was my first time at NASIG, and my first time attending a conference not as a vendor or MLS student. It was a great group, and I am always struck by the sense of solidarity that emerges at library conferences. Sometimes it’s comforting to know that others in your little career bubble share your pains and joys. I was both heartened and daunted to discover that the challenges I am facing in my role as E-Resources and Serials Librarian are not unique to those of us new in the field, but shared by key players who have been in their roles for decades. Some main themes emerged among the sessions and presentations: open access resource management, e-resource web archiving, and standardization. Here are some of the hottest highlights:
Our Vision Session speakers kicked off each morning with stellar presentations focusing primarily on digital preservation and web archiving. We should all be aware of the startling amount of web content (including e-journal content) not currently archived in any way, as this affects our idea of “ownership” when we purchase journal subscriptions and backfile content. We (and I mean the editorial “we”) tend to think of our e-resource ownership operating in the same way as print journal ownership, but web-hosted content acts more like Snapchat; one day we see it, the next day we don’t. Increased attention is being given to traditional web archiving, or the preservation of web pages and URLs through services and organizations like the International Internet Preservation Consortium and the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Even with these initiatives in place, the web is rife with link rot and broken chains of information. If we relate this phenomenon to web-based scholarly publications, we see the same concerns. Many academic libraries are turning to services like CLOCKSS and Portico, but e-journal archiving still seems to be on the backburner in the face of other pressing, daily priorities. In the e-journal preservation landscape, librarians are faced with more questions than answers: Which content preservation tool is best for my library? Who exactly is responsible for maintaining our e-resource archive within the library? What about “freemium” content, such as open access scholarly monographs? What does this mean for web-based scholarly communication? Should we be educating our faculty on the pitfalls of web-based research in a world of nebulous sustainability? One answer is clear: academic librarians should be on the front lines of advocating for increased web archiving and long-term access to the scholarly record.
One of the biggest takeaways and something on which we all seemed to agree is that hybrid open access e-journals are a nightmare. What percentage of the content should be available via OA before we call it a hybrid? Fifty percent? One percent? Any percent? And why is it such a headache to keep up with tracking and discoverability of OA content at the article level? Organizations like the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) are constantly at work on various initiatives with the goal of making our lives easier, including the Open Access and Metadata Indicators recommended practice. If you find OA article and journal identification as much of a nightmare as the rest of us, keep an eye on this initiative. Of course, it’s important to remember that NISO’s recommended practices are just that: “recommendations”. It is up to individual content providers to comply, so let’s not be coy about asking for what we want. I did learn about a nifty tool for tracking journal tables of content through RSS feeds called JournalTOCs. The basic tool is free to use, and they offer “premium” access for a fee. The main attraction here is that JournalTOCs includes color-coded icon indicators of whether or not content is full OA, hybrid, or subscription only. I recommend giving it a try and setting up a feed for your favorite e-journals.
One would imagine that with all the gloom and doom surrounding the discoverability, management, and lifespan of e-journal content, I left the NASIG conference feeling a bit discouraged. This is not the case. If anything, I left feeling better informed and better equipped to face these challenges and to engage my colleagues in discourse on how we can manage these issues for our own college community. Anxiety can be energizing! I returned from NASIG convinced that the issues we see as a nightmare today can be issues we look back on one day, laugh, and say, “well, that was all just a bad dream”.